Evening of poetry at New Dominion January 29

New Dominion Bookshop will host three poets reading and signing their work:

  • Aaron Baker, Mission Work
  • Ed Skoog, Mister Skylight
  • Hayden Saunier, Tips for Domestic Travel

Friday, January 29 at 5:30 PM

Aaron Baker, Mission Work

In this prize-winning collection—winner of the 2007 Bakeless Prize in Poetry—a debut poet evokes his childhood as the son of missionaries in Papua New Guinea.

Mission Work is an arresting collection of poems based on Aaron Baker’s experiences as a child of missionaries living among the Kuman people in the remote Chimbu Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Rich with Christian and Kuman myths and stories, the poems explore Western and tribal ways of looking at the world—an interface of vastly different cultures and notions of spirituality, illuminated by the poet’s own struggles as he comes of age in this unique environment.

The images conjured in Mission Work are viscerally stirring: native people slaughter pigs for a Chimbu wedding ceremony; a papery flight of cicadas cuts through a cloud forest; hands sting as they beat a drum made of dried snakeskin. Quieter moments are shot through with the unfamiliar as well. In “Bird of Paradise,” a father angles his son’s head toward the canopy of the jungle so the boy can catch sight of an elusive bird.

“How rare to find precision and immersion so alive in the same poetry. Aaron Baker’s pressure on his language not only intensifies and elevates his memories of Papuan ‘mission work,’ it transforms it back into something very like his original childhood experience. Throughout this remarkably written and felt first book, the reader, like the author himself, ‘can’t tell if this is white or black magic,’ Christian, tribal, or both at once.”— Stanley Plumly

Aaron Baker is a UVa alumnus (M.F.A., Poetry) and former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford University. He currently teaches at Lynchburg College. Previously he was a visiting assistant professor in the creative writing program at Hollins University. He also taught English at James Madison University, Rutgers University, the Pratt Institute, Baruch College, and the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey in Culiacán, Mexico. He has also held teaching assistantships at Central Washington University, the University of Virginia, and Stanford University.

Ed Skoog, Mister Skylight

“An emergency signal to alert a ship’s crew, but not its passengers”—Ed Skoog’s debut collection is an alert to disasters and to the hope of rescue. Interior dramas of the self play out in a clash of poetic traditions, exuberant imagery, and wild metaphor.

Working for years building exhibits in the basement of a museum in New Orleans, Skoog developed personal connections to art objects and paintings which in turn informed his own family stories of work and building.

Born in Topeka, Kansas in 1971, Ed graduated from Kansas State University and holds an M.F.A. from the University of Montana. He has been a Theodore Morrison Scholar at Bread Loaf and a Tennessee Williams Scholar at Sewanee, published three chapbooks, Took Kit (1996) L’Allegro and Il Penseroso (2000) and Field Recordings (2004). His poems have been published in many magazines, including American Poetry Review, The new Republic, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and NO: a journal of the arts in New Orleans. Marked by uncommonly intense and well considered use of language, Skoog demonstrates a rich attention to form and allusive narrative as he attends to the details of contemporary politics, culture, place, and relationships.

Hayden Saunier, Tips for Domestic Travel

Hayden Saunier takes us home where we use a bandsaw to do battle with a Smithfield ham, prepare for a road trip to an unknown sea town where a dearly beloved will nurse a tumor, and where death patiently reads The New York Times. Tips for Domestic Travel is an elegy, but it’s also a guide for navigating the domestic lands of the childhood home, the body, and the objects that remain.

“In these lucid and intriguing elegies, at the cold heart of calamity, there is a calm. This calm, a kind of wisdom, does not so much console as teach us that in the face of the tragic one cannot help, at least for some time, to remain inconsolable. You will find, in spite of what I have just said, that these poems are funny and humane, sharpened by Saunier’s razor-edged wit. She tunes these poems with a keen ear and perfected pitch for the music of the American language. This is a breathtaking and stunning debut.”—Eric Pankey, author of The Pear As One Example

Hayden Saunier’s poetry has appeared in 5 A.M., Beloit Poetry Journal, Mad Poets Review, Margie, Nimrod, Philadelphia Stories, Drunken Boat, and Rattle, among others. She is the 2005 winner of the Robert Fraser Poetry Award, a Bucks County Poet Laureate and a Pushcart Prize nominee. An actress and voice-over artist, her film and television credits include The Sixth Sense, Philadelphia Diary, and Hack. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her debut collection of poems, Tips For Domestic Travel, was a finalist for the St. Lawrence Book Award.

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